The infamous 1969 Stonewall raids that sparked activism and change in the gay community lasted for several days, from June 27-28. Patrons of the gay bar and their allies fought back against police officers that attacked them for nothing else except for the fact that they were gay.
In 1969, the general consensus among mental health professionals was that homosexuality as a mental disorder and law enforcement often viewed it as a crime.
LGBT people could be arrested for showing affection, dancing together and for not wearing a certain number of “gender-appropriate” items. Bars that served gay people had lost their liquor licenses and other gay bars, like the Stonewall, were simply unlicensed. Raids were common.
The night of June 27, police raided the bar but this time, patrons and passers-by-turned-allies resisted, throwing coins, cans, and anything at hand, and facing off with a tactical police unit brought in as reinforcements.
Previous New York police commissioners have refused to fully apologize for the raids. Commissioner James O’Neill was the first, just a few weeks ahead of the LGBT Pride parade in the city this year, which is expected to be one of the biggest yet.
“The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple,” O’Neill said during a briefing at police headquarters. “The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive. And for that, I apologize.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, had also said the department should apologize and was pleased with O’Neill’s briefing.
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) June 6, 2019
But some are not satisfied. Organizers of the alternative Queer Liberation March, who are excluding police from their event, said O’Neill’s apology was an “empty” and made under pressure, according to the Associated Press.
“Where has this apology been for the last 50 years?” the group, called the Reclaim Pride Coalition, said in a statement.